Prime World is yet another MOBA. That might sound like the first words to make anyone who plays LoL or Dota 2 turn their brain off and keep scrolling - trust me, that's exactly what I did at first - but having played the game, don't be so rash to judge. It's not going to make a dent in the eSports scene that keeps LoL so thriving, but to head up a more casual scale, Prime World is a pretty interesting entry to the genre, and I was surprised how much I ended up liking it. Read on for why...
You know that sensation when a new MMORPG comes out, with some new gimmick, trying desperately to compete with World of Warcraft, and you just kind of give it a glance and move on for lack of more deep content compared to a decade? That's how I'm feeling about MOBAs, because everyone wants to be League of Legends or Dota 2, and every one comes in with a few gimmicks but no lasting appeal. This game's gimmick – on the surface, anyway – appeared to be a Facebook game-like castle-building.
When I first forayed into Prime World it looked like a typical microtransaction fantasy MOBA, and I was more than a little bothered by the limited character pool. I only had one for the tutorial and battles, and I could buy the Healer right after, but there was a clear pallette of cheap-to-expensive characters, without the LoL excuse of some being older than others to feel less like an artificial barrier.
But I was surprised when I got into the game's 5v5 actual battles and found that the shop sold only consumables. Consumables only, you say? Then where is the strategy and in-game decision making that replaces the items? And, in fact, that's where Prime World really started to impress me.
You see, Prime World ties its MOBA gameplay into the Facebook-like kingdom construction game, where you get various resources like wood, food, silver, etc., that can be used to build more buildings and houses. Things can be purchased with silver, buildings are constructed from wood and the like, vanity items can be researched in novelty houses, and population allows you to grow your kingdom. Because it's a free-to-play game, all of the ones that earn you resources like silver are on set real-world timers.
But you know how you spend forever sitting in the League of Legends loader, wishing for something to do in the meantime, even just a stupid minigame like old EverQuest Gems? That's what the castle-construction feels like, and since it's directly related to what you can do, it actually feels worthwhile to spend a few minutes between fights puttering on it, or even waiting for queue timers.
The money you earn can be spent on heroes, obviously, but the heroes you use end up associated with it quite strongly. At the Library you can work on the champion's loadout, which is probably my favorite element of the game – the game is entirely based on talent trees, just like World of Warcraft or Diablo or the like, purchased with in-game resource Prime dropped just like gold and experience. But the kicker is that it's, no joke, completely customizable, and the talents you get are actually earned through combat as 'gear' as though you just finished a dungeon in WoW.
It's both extremely intuitive and very fun – in ways that even LoL can't top – to have a champion be figuratively 'built' pre-game and leave all of the decision-making processes to you. It removes the “what the hell do I buy” issue of getting into any MOBA by allowing you a lot of time to look over various talents and pick accordingly as you need them in game.
And, best yet, there's a lot of in-between points in design decisions. Flags between and at towers can be captured to grant you home turf bonuses. There's no LoL blue pill, instead it's on a three minute timer, and you can teleport to any structure you wish. You can do this with teleport scrolls too, which cost the experience/gold crossover Prime, and you can also pick up health potions, mana potions, sight potions, wards, and the like. It gives you so many options without bogging you down with items you need like scrolls and couriers, one of the things I never liked about Dota.
It's kind of cool how it finds its way to be so largely a departure while also having the best aspects of multiple games at once. It's not perfect – I'll get to that later – but it's extremely praise-worthy alone for just finding its place in the overstuffed MOBA environments that doesn't default to “Like League of Legends, but with the Transformers” and elevating its gimmick to above sub-standard means.
I didn't play it too much yet – I'm in the United States and I the test server we were given access to is Russian but with English translation, so the delay makes it very difficult to get experienced and knowledgeable about the game – but color me pleasantly surprised thus far, even with the 3-4 second lag on actions and highly limited character pool. It's pretty nice to have something relaxing to break up the tension between matches, in a sharp yet very well formed contrast. But what's that? I think I hear the Nitpick Bus pulling up to the stop!
There's a lot of good stuff in here but there's a mechanic designed to restrain the amount of times you can use a character before they have to be put into an inn to rest bothers me immensely. What if I happen to really like the Healer, and want to spam her? I feel like it's an artificial barrier constructed for the pure purpose of more integration to the castle-construction, which strains my acceptable limits a bit. Sure it's free to play, but do we have to add such obnoxious limitations?
There's also that I'm not a fan of the aesthetic decisions. It's a fantasy setting, but it really is just Fantasy Red Versus Blue, with pretty typical roles everyone settles into, and worse yet they act like characters are different depending on which side you're on. The Imperium and Keepers are just fluff text for both sides, why not throw out canon excuses for why the two sides with their heroes fight and just be done with the whole thing?
The sides don't even look that visually different, it's just psuedo-steampunk magical kingdom vs other pseudo-steampunk magical kingdom. Most of them, like the Healer and Priestess, are just pallet swaps, and some (like Blizzard and Cryo) might as well be. And why does it have to be Red vs Blue anyway, can't we just have opposing health bars in green/red flavors like all the other MOBAs? They try to add characterization, but it loses the lovability of the cast of Dota and League to have them be literally interchangeable from their different-colored version.
And, when it comes down to it, the way the game piles on talents to allocate to different slots on a character is unique, but I'm not sure it's conducive to building this into an eSport like LoL has. Much of LoL cleanly transmits itself and how it works, and the things like runes and masteries give you a slightly different edge, something this game doesn't. It feels like in an effort to make customizable character trees, it removed a lot of the visible actions within the MOBA game itself.
But that's nothing compared to how horribly it all could have gone wrong, and how surprising it is everything worked out like it did. Prime World is a pretty good... something compared to League of Legends. It's not going to replace it, but if you want to get into a MOBA with a different twist than the Big Two, it's not a bad one to keep in mind when it releases sometime this year in the States.